Becoming a Flight Nurse

mystery-medic.jpgFRN Emily
Flight Medic to Flight Nurse


  • Personality Characteristics of a Flight Nurse
  • Formal Education
  • Professional Licensing
  • General Certifications
  • Nursing Certifications
  • Pre-Flight Nurse Work Experience
  • Types of Flight Programs
  • Certificate of Need -vs- Free-For-All States
  • Characteristics of a Good Flight Program
  • Flight EMS Statistics
  • The “C” Word
  • Types of Flight Requests
  • Day in the Life of a Flight Nurse
  • Patient Types
  • Clinical Specifics
  • Scope of Practice
  • Main Diagnoses
  • Procedures
  • Clinical Reference List
  • Research in Flight EMS
  • Education Programs
  • Patient Billing
  • U.S. Flight Programs
  • International Flight Programs
  • Formal Professional Organizations
  • Related Web Sites
  • Aircraft








  1. I have been a nurse for 11 years.ICU and ER
    Have an interview as a flight RN in Arizona, next week- so does my husband!!!!!!
    We are travel nursing in Arizona ans I ran into a Flight nurse. I asked questions and found out that they were interviewing
    Applied and got interviews. Nervous but fascinated. As, in Wisconsin, where I am from, you would never see an opening let alone 2 openings for flight nursing!!!!!
    We are both veterans in the military
    Husband is nervous about relocating, I just want the job- will worry about the facts later

    Taryn and David Dreyer

  2. I am interesting in becoming a flight nurse, I have been an ICU nurse and and ER nurse for 11 years and looking for a change but in the same field. can you steer me in the right direction.

  3. I am a Senior in High School and am very interested in the Aeromedical field. When I attend the local community college this fall (I plan on transferring to a different school later), are there any specific courses that I should look for that would help me later on?

  4. Hey, thanks for the responses! I emailed you all and hope to keep hearing from you……

    Thanks again for visiting here!

  5. Emily-

    Thanks for this website! I’m entering my 3rd of 5 semesters of nursing school & knew day 1 that I wanted to be a flight nurse. Recently I did a ride along with East Care, a flight service associated with Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, NC. It was so awesome !! The thrill & rush of it all is undescribable !! As well as being in nursing school, I’m also in the EMT- Basic program to work towards eventually becoming a paramedic as well.

    Any advice as to which area would give the greatest benefit to becoming a flight nurse- critical care units or emergency departments?

    Thanks !

  6. I have recently finished college for a Medical Assistant. Although, I really love what I do I have also wanted to become a flight nurse. I have already been looking into classes to start my RN is there any classes that you would suggest or what path you would suggest to start me on the path to reaching my goal. I am only 21 but I really want to do this. As a child this was my dream goal. I would really love to hear a response from you. I need some guidence to help me to get on the right track to start the climbing process. Thank you so much!

  7. I am almost finished with my first year of nursing school. I have worked the last eleven years in a hospital as nursing tech for ICU and ER. I want to become a flight nurse. And I realize have so much more learning to do. Thank you for putting on here what you have gone through to grown into the person you are today. This web-page gives me more determation to become my dream.

  8. I have been a RN for 2 1/2 yrs. 1 1/2 years on a med surgical unit. I recently started working on a cardiac telemetry unit. I am very much interested in pursuing a career as a flight nurse. Can you please assist me in the necessary steps that I would need to take in pursuing my goal. I woul be interested in talking to someone and ask questions on how to apply. Thank you

  9. How far back to they consider your flight experience as being current? Within the last 3 years, or five years or less?
    How do crew members get compensated for their certifications above what is required, is there a standing formula? Do you take their years of nursing experience into consideration?

  10. I am a senior in high school and a member of the rescue squade in dyer county what classes do i need to take in college to be a flight nurse i really want to do it. what are all the requirements?

  11. @jeannie—-hope this helps!

    They were just happy I had ANY flight experience when I was hired on. I guess it would depend on the specific program and what the person had done in the mean time.

    I almost choked on my beer when I read the compensated part of the certifications! We are not compensated in any way. Actually, that isn’t true. We are 2 pay grades above a floor nurse, but we are paid on salary, not hourly. So, when it is all said and done, we actually lose money if you look at the number of hours we actually work. We are also hospital employees which isn’t always the case for flight programs.

    The silver lining? We will be eligible for a house wide bonus program that the hospital put into place in their quest for Magnet Status.

    (sorry, my sarcasm is running high tonight!)

    Oh, we also do take years of experience into consideration. If you are a new chicklet to the nursing profession, but you come to the table with a boat load of street medic experience that counts as well!

  12. I am currently going to school to be a Nurse right now. When I finish my degree, can I go right into the feild of being a flight nurse, or do I have to have years of experince at a hospital before becoming a flight nurse? Thank you for you time.

  13. I just gotta say “thank you” for doing what you are doing.

    A bunch of years ago when this MedEvac helicopter stuff was pretty new around here, one of my best friends almost died in a head on crash on a twisty road late at night. She was taken by chopper to the area Trauma center where surgeons dealt quickly with her ruptured liver. Had she had to travel by ambulance, she would surely have bled out long before reaching the hospital. Not only is she still alive, but she went back to school and recently got her RN.

    Thanks. Again.

  14. I can’t wait to read the rest of your writings on becoming a flight nurse. I am currently a nursing student and am looking forward to one day flying. Come to think of it, you are not far from my area, ever been to LaPorte Hospital?

  15. I am now on my 3rdyear of nursing school. I am seriously thinking of becoming a flight nurse, that’s how I ended up here on your blog. I do freelance work online to support my schooling… Thanks for your very inspiring blog. Makes me want to strive more harder in my studies…

  16. i am an RN with 5-6 years of emergency room experience. i am looking to get my certifications for becoming a flight nurse. i am looking to speak to someone about what certifications and qualifications that i can obtain to help getting a job as a flight nurse. i am finding it harder to find information than i ever thought possible. please help. seriously looking to become a flight nurse. one of my goals in life. i have been a travel nurse for the past 4 years and am looking to make a career move. any information you could give me would be helpful. thank you

  17. Hey Emily,
    What a great blog! Loved the video! I am almost done nursing school (got one more semester) and am very interested in Flight Nursing. Obviously I will need experience, so where do you suggest I start? I live near Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ which is known for it’s Trauma Center, but how can I make sure I am going in the right direction for Flight Nursing? I

  18. Hi Emily!

    I can’t tell you how excited I have been to have stumbled up on your blog. It is my dream to be a flight nurse. I am going to start an ADN program next fall…so, I know I’ve got a long road ahead of me…but I love this page that you’re putting together. It will really help to have some direction as to the type of experience that makes you most “hireable” and the whole slew of certifications that I’ll need to work on.

    I was just wondering…there are a whole bunch of titles/bullet points at the top of the page that don’t link to anything. Are those all works “in progress?” …or is there something wrong with the page? Many of the titles pique my interest and I was wanting to read them. 🙂

    I hope you’re doing well…you haven’t written anything new in a while. Take care…and thanks for sharing your life with us!


  19. So i am only an eight grader but im really interested in becoming a flight nurse so if you could tell me what i need to do to get past whats coming in the future.

  20. Emily,
    I just finished reading the book, Meditations on hope, and I was so touched by your passage. Just thought I would let you know that your writing does impact all walks of life.


  21. I am thirty two years old and a former EMT. I am looking for a change of career. Presently I am a corrections officer. I love emergency medicine and love to fly. Is is too late to working toward becoming a flight nurse. Is it a pipe dream. Be honest with me, I don’t want to set my hopes and my sights on doing something that is not feasible at my age.
    Thanks for the honest opinion.

    Be safe!
    Dave Wright

  22. i am a 17 year old girl who really wants to be a flight….its one of my dreams! =] but i am going to be graduating high school next year and i dont even know what college, classes, or anything like that to get me on the right track on becoming a flight nurse…..if you could help me to get started or headed on the right track that would be great….or even some advice on what i need to do to become a flight nurse.thank you so much! hope to hear from you soon

  23. I am 26 years old and want to be a flight nurse (someday). 🙂
    For now I am taking classes to be accepted into the local community college’s nursing program. I also volunteer at the local hospital in several different areas. I was just wondering if you had any tips or recommendations of classes that would be beneficial to starting in this career path???

  24. hello…

    i’m carlisle from the Philippines.. i’m currently a student taking up bachelors of science in nursing and after i have my RN in the future i always wanted to be a flight nurse since i was 9 years old..

  25. Hi Emily,

    Like many on this page I am interested in becoming a flight nurse as well. My dad was a chopper pilot so I grew up around helicopters. I also have a few friends who are flight nurses for West Michigan AirCare and I have had the opportunity to fly with them on a few occasions and got hooked!

    I am an elementary teacher but got laid off and am thinking of a career change.
    I was wondering do you know if any flight companies ever hire physician’s assistants? The problem with nursing in this area is the huge waiting list. I’m looking at least 2-3 years to get into school, then once finished probably at least 2 to 3 years ER, ICU etc. experience before I would be considered flight nurse material, which will put me at 41 years old at least. I know that the older I am the less marketable I become. PA school is less time and I can get in right away. Is there such a thing as a flight PA? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks for all that you do! Flight nurses are amazing people.

  26. I am going to be a freshman in highschool this year. I was talking with my dad about my future when the topic of becoming a flight nurse came up. Ever since then, I have been very interested to be a flight nurse. Also, I just found out that my dad has had a goal to be one too! He asked me to find some info about it because he doesnt have too much time. (for now)
    He came from the Ukraine about 14 years ago so he had to learn English. There were also some othere comlications which would slow him down.
    He was also wondering if it might be too late for him too start on this new career. He is 40 years old but very excited about this! He really wants this ALOT! Do you think you could give us some tips and help us? We would really appreciate that!

  27. Dear Emily, I am going to be Junior in high school this year, and since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be an e.r. nurse, or a black hawk pilot in the Army, like my dad, then I was reading on the internet and it became so obvious to me that this is what I need to do. If you could maybe give me a rough over-view of the classes I will need to take, and the classes required in college, and also what it was like being a flight nurse in the Army? It would be wonderful, and thank you for writing such an insightful blog, this has helped me so incredibly much to realize what I need to do with my life.

  28. Emily, what a good inspirtation! I have always dreamed of becoming a Flight Nurse. My dad is one of many family memebers being in the Medical field as I Firefighter/Medic, since age 2 I said I would always follow his footsteps. I’m going back into the college mode after 3 years of full-time work. I have taken EMT-B & plan to go on to get my Cardic, Intermediate & Paramedic. Can you give me an idea of which classes & college courses are going to be my best bet to becoming a successful Flight Nurse!! Thanks, keep up the Great work & Great blogs!! -Kayla.

  29. Hi Emily. I just read through some of your posts and all I can say is wow! Your job seems so awesome and rewarding. I just graduated from college with my BSN. I am looking for a job in an ED as it is my dream to one day become a flight nurse. Do you have any advice for a new graduate like myself?
    Thanks, Amy

  30. Hey Emily. Like many other posts here, I am a senior in high school wanting to become a Flight Nurse but don’t really know the correct path (colleges, majors, etc.) to go on. I would like to be in a Trauma Center (hopefully Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ) and eventually be a Flight Nurse. If I became a Physician’s Assistant would I still be able to become a Flight Nurse, or do I have to be a RN? I don’t know anyone who is in the medical field (other than local EMTs) and any advice would be very appreciated!! Thank you so much for your help! It is truly inspiring!!

  31. Hey Emily, great to see that a busy flight nurse like yourself has taken time out to put this information on the web, I have also subscribed to your videos on youtube 🙂 I am a new grad RN myself, currently in a my BSN program in NY, I am doing a research paper (by choice) on Flight Nurses, I was wondering if you would be kind enough to tell me what kind of professional issues or challenges you face as a flight nurse? I know lower wages, and the effects of health care reform are couple of the big ones ,is there anything else that I should also look into? Thanks.

  32. Hi Emily,
    My name is Jordin and i am a high school senior and i have been looking forward to a career in trauma and medicine as long as i can remember, specifically flight nursing. I grew up with a ER nurse as a mom and a fireman/ paramedic as a dad, and all I ever hear is medical and I love it. I think throughout my years at home a passion to help has rubbed off on me haha. I started volunteering at a community hospital when i was 13 and recently through the fire department on an ambulance. Throughout my hours I have noticed I took a liking to the trauma. I loved the adrenaline rush and the fact that I could help someone so messed up and help make them better. Well, the reason I wrote to you was to see if you had any recomendations on where I should apply to school or steps I could take to get onto the flight nursing path. If you could write me back as soon as you can that would be greatly appreciated!
    P.S. Thank you for everything that you do..You truly are a hero!

  33. Hey Emily…thanks for your blog.
    I’m just wondering what my chances of getting a job are without actual flight experience…I think I’m on the right track. I have 1.5 years ICU experience and counting, ACLS, working on CCRN, EMT-B (then hopefully NREMT-P), will be PALS in fall, hope to take BTLS or PHTLS this summer and maybe TNCC next spring..NRC not required here, but will look good…all in all, If I meet the requirements and apply with bare minimum ICU experience and no flight experience, what are my chances of breaking into flight nursing…currently there are several full time job listings within 5 hour drive of my house (i.e GA, TN, MS). I have been up with the local medflight for ride I know this is what I want to do….just curious how long it will take or if I stand a chance without flight experience when the time comes. If nothing else, I work with an RT that flew fixed wing transfers and will put a good word in for me with a different co. when the time comes… so maybe i can get a foot in the door.
    This is much longer than i intended..mainly I just want to fly and save lives..any suggestions or help is greatly appreciated!

    Thanks ,

  34. just a few words…. takes a woman with guts to step up and take on action as if nothing else in this world matters but that moment in life.

  35. I would like to know what your answer was for Jen(#27). I kinda had the same thought.

  36. Hi Emily!

    I’m still in high school, but I am thinking a lot about college and my job/career. I want to be an Officer in the Navy Nurse Corps, but I also want to be a flight nurse. Could you tell me some about your training and kind of what you do as a flight nurse? I’m just trying to lean everything I can(:

  37. I am a 33yr old mom of five. I have worked med/surg, ortho, and I just relocated with my spouse and kids and hace a job working in the picu. I have yet to get back to school for my rn degree. I have been working as a tech for four an a half yrs. Is it too late for me to become a flight nurse? I hope to start school in the fall. Still have pre reqs to do.

  38. I am happy to have found your blog. I recently finished my ER rotation in RN school and was scared to death the entire time, however I found making myself focus through that fear was very intense. A new emotion.
    I am working on a cardiac floor as a PCS until December, at which time I hope to land a job (I hope my boss is listening). That will give me a definitive pathway to critical care within the year. Another 3-4 years in critical care and I will be ready to take on trauma, particularly air transport.
    Thanks again for the insiders view on Flight Nursing.

  39. Hello Emily,
    I have been reading your blog and its really inspired me. I am the oldest of two kids, and the first to go to college in my family. I’m still in highschool, and am going to be taking CNA classes when school starts again. I was wondering if you could give me some pointers on becoming a flight nurse. When I was little I would always tell my mom that I was going to take care of people, that I wanted to make a difference in someones life. It was not tell about two years ago that I finally figured out that I want to be a flight nurse. If you could tell me what keep you motivated and what not. It would be very helpful.
    Thanks so much,

  40. I read your blog and I to am wondering if you could help stear me in the right direction. I have been a nurse for about 3 years now. I did about 2.5 years as a ER/trama RN in a level 1 pediatric ER. I am currently a sexual assault nurse examiner and I also work as an EP RN. I wanted to learn more about the electrical activity of the heart and EP is the best way to do it! Now I’m pretty comfortable with heart rhythms to say the least! I have always been a very determined person and would do anything to acheive my goals. So needless to say filght nursing has been a long time dream for me. Could you help stear me in the right direction. What do they look for with an applicant? And where the best place is to look for available jobs? Thank you so much for your help! I greatly appreicate it!


  41. Emily, you are my inspiration. I have been a nurse since 2002. I worked critical care and some agency here and there… got floated to the ED in one of my agency shifts and voila… ED became my thing in the last years of my nursing. I did one ground transport as an agency nurse bc they had no one else to do it (no one else wanted to do it)… so, I volunteered. I thought, gee how hard can it be to sit in the back of the rig. LOL! Go figure, right?!

    BUT, (professionally) I somehow regret that I stopped working as a nurse for almost 2 years as we relocated to a new state and stayed home with my 3 kids for a while. (Don’t get me wrong, any mother will say what I’m about to say… I don’t regret staying home with the bebes… Nope, I don’t! I LOVED IT, being a stay at home mom was the greatest experience a professional working mother could have). But, I regret cutting off my professional status. It’s so hard to find a job again in a really great facility.

    So now, ANYWAY, it is time for me to go back to work for many many reasons… and I find myself back to searching for opportunities in flight nursing. I feel cheated in a way that I never met a good leader/mentor through my early nursing years to help guide me in what my goals are. Some of my nurse-mates back home were career bashers and some stale in their profession.

    And so… now that I am back, it’s been kind of a catch up game for me to get back to my critical thinking skills, and etc. It’s only been a month… and things are coming back to me. A little slower than I like it to be. Some docs and nurses are shocked with what I already know, lol! But deep inside I wish I had it like how I did 2 yrs ago.

    So, I am writing bc I am ready to get back on track (I hope to finally be a flight nurse 2-3 years from now) and I too, need a good mentor. Working on certs at this time and I have the same questions as Mackenzee above. Also, read online that it is best to have these certs: PHTLS, TNATC, CFRN, CCTRN, CCRN, ITLS. Is that correct?

    Mackenzee, if you haven’t found a flight nurse job already, check these websites out:

    Thanks a million! Sunshine

  42. Hello Emily…maybe this is a weird question to you, but sometimes I feel a little old to be starting a new career path. I know it’s going to be a long road, but I really want to work for REACH (west coast). I quit my job as a 9-1-1 dispatcher so that I could pursue nursing. Took a huge pay cut and started working as a CNA to get my foot in the door at the local hospital and have finished all of my nursing pre-reqs, just waiting for school to start. Since I just can’t sit still, I am doing an EMT B/I program until I go off to school. I volunteer for the fire department too. Is there anything else I could do to advance myself? I already have a BA and am going into a Bachelor’s to BSN program in May 2012. I try to work in the ER as much as possible by picking up shifts. Are there any schools I should look at for after I am done with nursing? Should I go straight into a Master’s Program or get a crash course in experience? The hospital I work for has a new grad critical care intern program I have been looking at too.

    Thanks for reading, sorry I tossed so much out there at once 🙂

  43. Hi Emily

    I’m a nursing student that completed my first year of nursing. My dream is to be a flight nurse. I have done extensive research on this topic but I have some specific questions:
    a. Do you recommend doing an EMT/Paramedic course and be certified as one or depends on the state that you live?
    b. you talked about mentors… how can I arrange for someone to be my mentor?
    c. After I graduate with my RN do you recommend working in the ER, ICU or both?

    Thanks for this great blog!

  44. If i wanted to be a paramedic and a flight nurse would i need to take two diffrent classes in college of would one class cover it all?? Thank You so much

  45. If you considering the nursing field and like the idea of an LPN or Licensed Practical Nurse, then my site will prove very informative for education, salary and real work experience

  46. Hello i’m an Italian flight Nurse, i live in Verona, i’d like to have a work experience like a flight nurse in Usa,can anyone tell me how i have to do?
    thank you so much

  47. Hi thanks so much for writing this article! I have always wanted to be a flight RN. I have been a RN 15 yrs. I have worked in a trauma icu, PICU and open heart recovery. I have certain circumstances as of now where I can’t do it right now but definitely want to prepare myself 4 it. I was just wondering if u could give me some suggestions? You rarely even see jobs posted. I just wanta give a try!

  48. I am currently a Hospital Corpsman in the US Navy and when I get out I am interested in becoming a flight Nurse. There is one thing that has kept me out of any special programs in the military. So I was wondering if having a slight red green color deficency in my eyes would prevent me from becoming a flight nurse.

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